PORT OF SPAIN –– The usually quiet coastal town of Icacos, Cedros, descended into chaos on Saturday night, after gunmen opened fire outside a party, killing two people and wounding six others.
The murders of fisherman Amit “Sanchez” Samaroo, 29 and his sister-in-law Kimberly Mohammed, 19, rounded off a bloody weekend in Trinidad, in which seven people were killed in just three days, pushing the 2015 murder toll to 298.
Saturday night’s double murder also left Amit’s brother Karan Samaroo, 31, his sister-in-law Patricia Toolsie, 23 and their friend Ricardo Massey, 25, all of Icacos, suffering gunshot wounds. Three others, Utilda Williams, 60, of North Trace, Chatham, her friend Leon Graham, 67, of Mahaica, Point Fortin, and Niel Paul, 27, of Marabella were also shot and taken to hospital.
According to reports, Amit, Karan and Toolsie were liming in front of their home opposite Lover’s Lane with Massey around 11:30 p.m. The street was crowded as people were heading to a party at Lover’s Paradise Bar, when a new model Nissan X-Trail pulled up in front the house and two occupants, one armed with an automatic rifle and the other with a handgun, emerged and opened fire on the group.
Mohammed died immediately after being struck in the face while Samaroo died shortly after from a gunshot wound to the head. Karan survived being shot behind his head and knee, while his wife Toolsie and Massey were shot in their hands and legs.
Witnesses said after the gunmen returned to the X-Trail they continued spraying bullets at people in the street, hitting Williams, Graham and Paul. The injured were taken to the Point Fortin Area Hospital by private vehicles and later transferred to the San Fernando General Hospital. Police found the gunmen’s vehicle a short distance away from the scene and impounded it for tracing. Senior police officers said patrols and manpower would be increased in the community.
Investigators believe the gunmen went for Amit, who was alleged to have been involved in illegal activity. Speaking to the Trinidad Guardian yesterday, Mohammed’s husband Navindra Tambie said his wife was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tambie, 24, who is Amit’s brother, said he ran for his life when the gunmen trained their guns on him.
He believed Amit was the target, having been shot at by gunmen two years ago in a drug-related incident.
Tambie was at his Lemessey Street home where his mother-in-law Kathlene Mohammed was feeding Mohammed and his two-month-old baby Safiyya Naviana Tambie.
“We were walking by to buy barbecue and my brother’s wife called her to tell her something. I was leaning by the car and I saw the two men jump out the vehicle and open fire on them. Then he turned and watch me and fired behind me because he probably knew I was Sanchez’s brother,” Tambie said.
“I could not see who it was because it happened so fast, and ran into a side street. After my wife was shot I knew I couldn’t do anything to help her. When I went back and held her up, she was already dead and there was a lot of blood on my clothes.”
Back at Amit’s home, his mother Lalitta Tambie said she was inside watching television with her grandchildren when she thought fireworks had gone off. After realizing it was not, Tambie, 49, sent relatives outside to check.
“. . . We did not hear anything, then I heard somebody said they shot him by the road.
“When I came out, I saw my son on the ground and my daughter-in-law lying down, that is all I could have seen.”
Earlier on Saturday, friends Amit Ramlogan, 18 and Kareem Turton, 28, were killed in Belmont; Ramjit Ramlal was beaten to death in Moruga and another man, who remained unidentified up to yesterday, was found shot to death along the Eastern Main Road, St Joseph.
Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon, who was on a motorcade in Cedros yesterday, met with Lalitta Tambie to offer condolences.
He was also told by residents who witnessed the murder that police officers stationed at the party hid when shots rang out and did nothing to chase down the criminals.
Dillon later told reporters that dealing with murders was one of his first priorities, as it was the barometer by which crime was measured.
“The number one issue is the crime in Trinidad and Tobago and out of that, murder is the barometer by which crime is measured in almost all jurisdictions,” he said.
“In looking at the murders, in looking at crime, it is the first priority in my national security architecture. We first have to look and do the review of the national security architecture, but that must be done simultaneously with looking at and addressing the issues of crime and criminality.”
He said this was the reason why he met with the heads of the security arms last week, “to get an idea as to what is the situation in so far as crime is concerned, what are the measures they have in place now and what we can do improve those measures”.
Showing reporters that Venezuela was visible from Icacos, he said another priority for his ministry was maritime security so as to stem the flow of weapons into the country. “We have to take measures to protect citizens, especially in the South Western Peninsular here . . . . Traditionally we have known that there has always been movements from the South American mainland to Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.
“What has happened over time is that the commodity has changed and now we have the guns and other things coming over. Therefore, another priority in terms of looking and addressing our maritime security is first and foremost to prevent that.
“While we tackle that, we also have to tackle the internal security environment, but I am saying this to you with the understanding that we first must do a review of the security architecture to know where we are, where we are going and then fill the gaps.”
He said he would be meeting with divisional heads of national security tomorrow to be briefed on the current policies and statuses.